Cantina Rooftop, an authentic Mexican restaurant in New York, hosted a private holiday celebration on Dec. 5 with renowned chef Rick Bayless in collaboration with beer brand Modelo Negra. Bayless demonstrated three different recipes featuring Modelo Negra: Grilled Duck Breasts with Mole Colorado, Tacos of Garlicky Mexican Greens and the Modelo Negra Chocolate Float. Cantina Rooftop’s mixologist Nelson Lemus created a few different cocktails for the event that incorporated Modela Negra.
Bayless, who opened his first restaurant—Frontera Grill in Chicago—in 1987, specializes in Mexican cuisine. He recently released his latest book, More Mexican Every Day.
So what does Bayless think makes a good pairing with Mexican food? Beer is a natural—Modelo in particular works well with sautéed dishes, he says. But “people are still stuck on the Corona bandwagon” and drinking lighter beers with Mexican food, he notes. Complex beers, such as those with dark, toasty malts, pair nicely with main courses, “and wine goes really well with Mexican food.”
Tequila and mezcal naturally work well with the cuisine, Bayless says. Mezcal is a favorite of his, especially with snacky kind of foods. Mexicans see mezcal as a palate opener, he adds. Other agave spirits such as sotol, bacanora and raicilla “can be super delicious.”
What does Bayless see trending for 2017? He expects a greater variety of Mexican flavors to become more popular. For instance, he likes chiltepin peppers (“spicy and bright”) and hoja santa, an aromatic Mexican herb with with large leaves that have a peppery, anise-like flavor.
He also cites Northern Baja as a region to watch for flavor trends. The area has a huge Asian influence, as well as Italian and Mexican, Bayless notes, so the cuisine and flavors tend to be experimental and unique.